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UniSA and top Chinese university pioneer new approach to researching urban issues

by Nigel Relph

UniSA’s Nigel Relph and University of Tianjin’s President Li Jiajun at the China launch.On 27 October 2012, UniSA and Tianjin University (P.R. of China) launched the joint China-Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development (CAC_SUD) in Tianjin at a launch conference attended by senior Chinese officials from National and Local Government, academic experts on environmental science, management and urban planning, and the President and Vice President of Tianjin University.

A delegation from UniSA including Nigel Relph, Pro Vice Chancellor (International & Development); Professor Andrew Parfitt, Pro Vice Chancellor (ITEE); and Prof Steffen Lehmann (Director of the SA Zero Waste Research Centre for Sustainable Design and Behaviour and also Co-Director of CAC_SUD) attended the event.

The Centre is part of a strategy to develop close research and educational links with top universities in China, with a view to establishing a sustainable engagement for UniSA in a country which is becoming increasingly important in science, technology and design. The importance of China is articulated in the new Commonwealth Government Asian Century White Paper.

Tianjin University is one of China’s leading universities, ranked in the top one per cent in the country and is recognised as China’s first modern university. It is located in a booming city of 12 million people, around 30 minutes by high-speed train from Beijing, which has been identified as a science ‘cluster’ by the Chinese Government.

Launch of the joint China-Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development  (CAC_SUD) in Tianjin.“The launch event spelled out the strategic direction of the new joint centre and also posed the question of what it means to be an architect or urban planner in the Asia Pacific region in the 21st century,” said Prof Lehmann.

“There is an interesting synergy and overlay between both universities and this builds on the close cooperation and memorandum of understanding between Tianjin University and the University of South Australia.

“The aim of CAC_SUD is to build a world-class multidisciplinary research-intensive centre which will focus on sustainable urban development.

“Research areas that relate to urbanisation include looking at affordable housing, energy efficiency, sustainable buildings, urban ecology and, as Tianjin is a port city, the impact of rising sea levels is another area of interest and concern.

“The launch of CAC_SUD will facilitate cooperative activities in research and teaching and the conducting of joint research, publications and symposia.

“It will include the exchange of academic staff and students between both countries, the submission of joint research grant applications and the joint supervision of PhD students.

“CAC_SUD will also provide consultancy services to industry and government.”

The China-Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development is a joint initiative between Tianjin University and the University of South Australia that will bring leading Chinese and Australian perspectives to research into pressing problems of cities in both countries. As China develops it has particularly acute problems in its urban areas, within which over 50 per cent of the population now lives. Air and water pollution, severe traffic congestion, quality of life issues, housing and health will all fall within the ambit of the Centre.

The Centre will host joint research projects, jointly supervised PhD students (supported by the China Scholarships Council) and will make bids for funding in Australia and China.

A delegation of colleagues and government representatives from China (including members of Tianjin University, representatives from ministries and national bodies and from Tianjin City Government) will visit the University next year, on 21-22 February 2013 for the Australian launch conference of the China-Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development.

The Premier of South Australia has agreed to give the opening address at the launch conference on 21 February 2013, which will also be attended by a number of academic, industry and government representatives.

UniSA colleagues who would like to be involved in the China-Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development are invited to contact Professor Steffen Lehmann.